Crystina Vance came to Walla Walla University two years ago as a transfer student from Chicago. “My mother really wanted me to go to a Seventh-day Adventist college, and so out of all of them I picked this one because of the engineering program. Plus, I have friends here as well,” she says. Vance enrolled as a bioengineering major and was well on her way when a series of events took her down a different path.
“I was suffering from a lot of nausea,” Vance explains. “I was losing weight and not doing well in my classes. My roommate recommended I find somebody to help, and that’s how I ran into Sue Huett.”
Huett is the assistant director of the WWU student development center (SDC), where she works to connect students with helpful resources. She manages disability support services and peer tutoring and provides referrals for students to other campus services. Huett connected Vance with WWU campus health, which set in motion a series of medical tests and doctor’s orders for Vance to write down everything she ate.
“Always having to keep tabs of what I eat, I got really interested in the ingredients behind things. I started reading labels more, and I really wanted to understand it,” says Vance. She started doing online research about the ingredients in her food and how those ingredients are developed, and she discovered the field of food science. “Food science is basically creating new flavors, developing ways for food to last longer on the shelves, looking at the effects of pesticides and things like that. It can provide research opportunities as well. I completely love it all,” says Vance.
As Huett helped Vance navigate her health challenges and wait for the results of her medical tests, she arranged for Vance to take tests for her classes in a quiet, less stressful environment at the SDC. She also connected Vance with peer tutoring provided by student employees of the SDC.
“It was a really long process,” says Vance, “and through it all I was kind of in a depressed state. Going through classes was especially hard, but having the time to take my tests in the SDC made me feel like I wasn’t in it alone.”
Vance was relieved when she eventually received a diagnosis. Inspired by her research about food science, she changed her major. “I switched over to the bioengineering science degree, which allows me to take more chemistry and other science classes more related to food science.”
Vance is now working with Daryl Harwell, SDC employer relations coordinator, to apply for a food science internship for after she graduates. While she waits to hear about those positions, she is also meeting with David Lindstrom, SDC director, to fine-tune her resume for graduate school.
“I feel like I’ve used every resource at the student development center,” says Vance. “Whether I’m taking a test or just talking with Sue when I’m down or going for tutoring, I’m always there. It feels like the SDC is my second home really.”